David S. Broder rightly criticizes the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation [op-ed, May 20] for its unintended consequences, but he does not mention the new "clean money, clean elections" alternative that has been successfully implemented here in Massachusetts, as well as in Arizona, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont.
Under that law, state-level candidates who voluntarily choose to accept no special-interest campaign money and who gather a sufficient number of signatures from voters in their districts receive enough public financing to run a competitive campaign for public office. Clean-elections laws allow the average citizen an equal opportunity to run for public office and an equal voice in our democracy.
David Broder seems surprised that the McCain-Feingold law has not had its intended effects. I can imagine Sen. Mitch McConnell's "I told you so."
It is grossly naive for anyone to think money would become less important in politics just because pundits and "reformers" lamented its influence. Did anyone believe the cost of campaigning would drop as soon as more regulations on candidates' financing were imposed? If the costs of television or radio time, newspaper advertising, travel, and direct-mail postage have not dropped, why expect political campaigns to get by on less?
Trying to keep money out of politics is like trying to keep teenage boys away from teenage girls -- an exercise in futility. To those who thought this law would reduce political spending, I say smarten up. To those who knew it wouldn't but wanted to be seen as reformers, shame.
David Broder underestimated the accomplishments of the McCain-Feingold legislation. Elected officials are no longer in the business of soliciting six- and seven-figure donations, which is no trivial matter. The renewed emphasis on raising "hard money" has brought in more than a half-million new contributors, many through the Internet. The scores of real and fake interest groups that ran tens of thousands of misleading issue ads in congressional races have disappeared or, like other campaigners, have begun to focus on grass-roots politics.
No one would suggest that we have a perfect system now. But most supporters of McCain-Feingold feel the bill is a significant step forward. It's unfair to hold the remaining imperfections of the system against them.
If perfection is what Mr. Broder seeks, he should encourage reformers to go farther, rather than railing at them for not going far enough.
The writer was an expert witness for the defense in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission.